¿Habla Español? Resources for Learning Medical Spanish

A reader contacted me recently asking if I knew of any resources for nurses and nurse practitioners hoping to learn medical Spanish.  Great question!  Many of us encounter Spanish speaking patients on a daily basis and the ability to communicate with them is a must.  Although most hospitals have translation services such as a language line, smaller clinics may not have access to these services.  Even if you do have translation services available, it always makes a positive impression to communicate, even if at an entry level, with your patients in their native language.

Learning a second language is difficult, especially once you are no longer in a school.  It takes time and discipline to become bilingual and is a major commitment.  When it comes to learning medical Spanish, having a basic knowledge of the Spanish language is the first step to take.  Learning how to structure sentences, conjugate verbs and speak basic phrases is a necessary foundation before adding medical vocabulary to your repertoire.  Some medical Spanish courses teach basic language skills while others operate with the assumption that students already speak some Spanish.  Remember to consider this when choosing your medical Spanish course.

There are a few ways to learn medical Spanish.  Online courses are the most convenient and cost effective because you can complete them from your own home.  Books, while helpful, aren’t ideal for mastering a new language.  Hearing Spanish spoken correctly will be essential in helping you to develop correct pronunciation.  This is lost learning from books.  While not the best solo method for learning medical Spanish, a vocabulary reference can be helpful when you find yourself in a pinch at work, or when memorizing a few new medical words.

By far the best way to learn to speak Spanish is through total immersion.  If you have the time and financial resources, traveling to a Spanish speaking country for medical Spanish courses will be the quickest and most effective way to learn. Some programs even allow students to stay with a host family offering total immersion into the Spanish language and culture.

Here are a few programs that can help nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants learn to speak medical Spanish.
Online Medical Spanish Courses

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  • MedicalSpanish.com– This company provides medical Spanish education completely online.  MedicalSpanish.com offers two different modules for NPs and PA’s, the first covering symptoms for each system of the body and the next covering physical exam findings and diagnosis.  Pricing is as low as $69 per course.
  • Rosetta Stone– While Rosetta Stone doesn’t cover medical Spanish specifically, the program receives rave reviews for giving users a basic Spanish education.  If you don’t have any background in speaking Spanish, beginning with Rosetta Stone will give you a foundation of the Spanish language before expanding your abilities to include medical vocabulary. Normally pricey at $499, Rosetta Stone is currently on sale priced at $299 for the holiday season.
  • ed2go Spanish for Medical Professionals– Created for the Spanish speaking newbie, ed2go’s course starts with the basics.  The course lasts 6 weeks, is offered completely online and posts new lessons every Wednesday and Friday.  The course is affordable compared to many others priced at $149.
  • Canopy– Backed by the National Institute of Health, the Canopy medical Spanish program boasts excellent reviews.  Canopy offers three different levels of medical Spanish courses each priced at $199.
  • Medical Spanish Podcasts with Dr. Molly Martin– Dr. Molly Martin, an internist, offers free podcasts helping medical professionals perfect their Spanish speaking skills.  Podcasts are a mock visit between a patient and physician completely in Spanish.  These audio bits are perfect for NPs and PA’s with a basic grasp of the Spanish language hoping to learn new medical vocabulary and integrate it into their basic knowledge of Spanish.

Spanish Immersion Courses

  • Medical Elective Network– This company provides immersion experiences for medical professionals in Peru.  Nurses, NPs, PA’s and physicians travel to Peru for a 4 week program teaching both general and medical Spanish.  The program is tailored to the individual helping providers focus on learning Spanish for their specialty of interest.  A typical day includes shadowing a physician at the hospital or clinic as well as classroom based Spanish language classes.  Students may opt to stay with a local family creating a total immersion experience.
  • Spanish Abroad, Inc.– Participants in Spanish Abroad’s medical programs may choose to study in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Argentina or Coast Rica.  Many participants are medical students but the program welcomes anyone involved in the medical profession.  Students are expected to have a working knowledge of the Spanish language.  The program includes both classroom based coursework and physician shadowing.
  • Rios Associates– If you are looking to complete a medical Spanish program in person but don’t want to travel internationally, Rios Associates offers medical Spanish conferences in California and Arizona.  Conferences are either 4 or 8 days long and teach students to take a medical history, conduct a physical exam and provide follow-up information and instructions in Spanish.

Have you taken a medical Spanish course?  If so, was it helpful?  Which programs would you recommend?


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1 thought on “¿Habla Español? Resources for Learning Medical Spanish”

  1. Rhonda Hertwig, PNP

    I also advise downloading Duolingo as well. Its free and it is very simple and the audio for pronouncing words is great. I have taken 2 years at our local community college, but until you really immerse yourself, its tough. I hope to do one of the immersion programs someday. In the meantime, Duolingo & Memrize, are two great apps – do 5 minutes each day – it helps! Also in numerous languages.

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